Three sideshow performers leave their lives of captivity and become "The Unholy Three." Echo the ventriloquist assumes the role of a kindly old grandmother who runs a bird shop. Tweedledee, the "twenty inch man," becomes her grandbaby, and Hercules is their assistant. Soon an incredible crime wave is launched from their little store.Written by
David Ezell <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Turner Classic Movies showed an 86-minute version with a music and sound effects that was recorded in the 1970s by MGM from a stock music library for syndication. The tints for this edition are incorrect. See more »
In an effort to make more money than they do as traveling carnival show attractions, velvet-voiced ventriloquist Lon Chaney (as Echo), baby-impersonating dwarf Harry Earles (as Tweedledee), and strongman Victor McLaglen (as Hercules) team up to form a gang of jewel thieves who call themselves "The Unholy Three". The crooked trio begins operating out of a bird shop run by Mr. Chaney, posing as sweet "Granny O'Grady", mother of pickpocket and gang moll Mae Busch (as Rosie). The front works like a charm, but Ms. Busch attracts the attention of straight-flying Matt Moore (as Hector), who forms a "love triangle" with Chaney.
Then, an unexpected murder brings further unwelcome advances... from the police.
This was re-made as Chaney's first - and only, unhappily - sound feature, in 1930. Of the many Chaney hits, "The Unholy Three" seemed like the most obvious one to improve with sound; and, Chaney's performance in both is stellar. While the later version has problems, Chaney enhanced his already incredible performance. In this one, frequent collaborator/director Tod Browning is definitely an asset. Also remarkable is Mr. Earle, who hadn't mastered English for the re-make, but seemed fine by "Freaks" (1932); his wicked, cigar-smoking baby is classic.
"The Unholy Three" (1925) was honored as one of its year's best pictures at "Film Daily" (#2), Motion Picture Magazine (#3), and The New York Times (#3) - after winners "The Gold Rush", "The Big Parade", and "The Last Laugh". At Motion Picture, Chaney's individual performance ranked third (after "Best Actor" Emil Jannings and runner-up John Gilbert). The film is perversely appealing - which was then, and is now, a Chaney/Browning hallmark.
******** The Unholy Three (8/16/25) Tod Browning ~ Lon Chaney, Mae Busch, Harry Earles, Matt Moore
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